SAP CRM App Offers 'Radically Different' Interface

SAP CRM interface

The new software, unveiled at the company's SAP Influencer Summit conference in Boston, also offers streamlined sales, marketing and customer service business processes, said Bob Stutz, SAP senior VP of CRM global strategy and product development. It also provides improved ways to manage marketing and distribution funds and enhanced promotion fund management capabilities.

SAP CRM 2007 will be offered in both on-premise and on-demand versions. Available later this month, the application will replace the current SAP CRM 2006 application, as well as an on-demand CRM application SAP debuted nearly two years ago.

SAP CRM is largely targeted at bigger companies while its Business All-in-One and BusinessOne application sets -- which include CRM functionality -- are designed for mid-size and small businesses, respectively

SAP has about 6,000 customers using older versions of its CRM applications. Stutz said he expects many customers to upgrade to the new release in a fairly short period of time.

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SAP is in a dogfight with Oracle, Microsoft, and others in the hotly competitive CRM software market, which hit $5.81 billion in 2006 and is growing 11 percent to 12 percent a year, according to Gartner. The analyst firm also calculated that SAP surpassed Oracle's Siebel CRM applications last year to become the market leader.

"What we have today is much more competitive with, as well as anything else that's out there," Stutz said of the new release. He added that SAP has an advantage over Salesforce because SAP also sells back office ERP and financial software that work with its CRM applications. "We have an advantage because we own the back end," he said. But he also acknowledged that SAP has seen an increase in the number of customers using SAP CRM with Oracle back office applications.

Stutz said the SAP CRM 2007 CRM user interface is "radically different" from earlier versions of the product and he described it as being similar to iGoogle, Google's customizable homepage.

SAP has been working with about 150 customers in developing the new CRM product, said Michael de le Cruz, senior vice president of CRM application solution management at SAP. One such customer is Siemens and David Macaulay, senior vice president of CRM at Siemens, said his company has as many as 500 different CRM systems scattered throughout the company. Siemens is widely adopting SAP CRM 2006 (known as version 5.1 in Europe), Macaulay said, and will likely upgrade to SAP CRM 2007 or a follow-on version at a later date. He said the new application is easy to tailor to multiple businesses "- a key issue for a diversified conglomerate like Siemens.

In addition to the improved user interface and streamlined business processes, SAP CRM 2007 makes it easier for businesses to create composite "mashup" applications, according to Stutz. The software also offers more extensive drag-and-drop customization.